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Gwaine sat in the tavern thoughtfully.
He couldn't get the image of Merlin and that child out of his head.
He had always suspected Merlin had been hiding something, which is why it made sense that Merlin had some kind of secret family.
But at the same time...it was Merlin. How could he have kept THAT big of a secret from everyone? Someone in Camelot had to know, and he had an idea on who that was.
It was 2 in the morning when he knocked on Gaius's door.
Gaius opened, flabbergasted and confused.
"Gwaine? What's going on?"
Gwaine looked at him calmly.
"I know about the boy," he said quietly. "The boy living with Merlin's mother."
Gaius's face formed harsh frown lines.
"Come on in."
"He called Merlin daddy?" He asked as the door was shut tight.
"Careful, the walls have ears," warned Gaius.
"I don't understand, why the secrecy? Why doesn't Arthur know?"
"That, my friend, is a long story."
A few hours later Gwaine followed Merlin into the stalls where Merlin was saddling Arthur's horse.
"Merlin..." He felt unsure of how to talk to the young man, but Gaius made it clear that if Merlin found out that Gwaine knew and didn't say anything about it, or Gaius, that he would never forgive them.
"Oh, hey, Gwaine." Merlin nodded to his old friend cheerfully.
"I..." Gwain stalled and Merlin frowned.
"Look, Gwaine, I'd love to chat. But Arthur'd have my head if his precious horse wasn't ready in time."
Gwaine bit his lip. This was his way out, but he couldn't take it.
He had to tell his first real friend the truth.
"I know," he said suddenly and Merlin looked at him, confused. "I know your little secret."
Merlin's face turned from confusion to fear and horror.
"Come on now, Merlin, mate. Don't play coy with me." Gwaine tried to control his anger and hurt. "I know about your son."
Merlin's face changed from something that looked like relief...but why relief?.. to more shock and fear.
"I followed you," Gwaine answered calmly. "To your village."
Merlin dropped the reins, then.
"You had no right!"
"I was worried about you!" Gwaine shot back, his voice rising. "You've been so secretive lately, acting like something was crushing you. I just wanted to know you were all right!"
Merlin paced, and fumed.
"Who else knows?"
"Come on, Gwaine, who else did you tell?" Merlin spat.
"I talked with Gaius, but he already knew," Gwaine growled. "I did NOT tell anyone. Not any of the knights, not Gwen, and NOT Arthur. It is your secret to tell, not mine. I just wish you had trusted me enough to tell me in the first place."
Tears appeared in Merlin's eyes.
"I couldn't risk it."
"That's what Gaius said." Gwaine's voice was softer, kinder this time.
"What...what else did Gaius tell you?"
"Everything," Gwaine said bluntly. "He told me about Freya, and Uther wanting to kill her. And how your son is half druid."
Merlin's throat moved as he swallowed.
"Please, Gwaine...I...I need you to continue to keep this a secret..."
"Of course," Gwaine answered calmly. "You can trust me, Merlin. I wish you believed that before."
"I didn't even tell Gwen," said Merlin miserably. "And she wouldn't hurt a fly. It's not...it was never about you and your word, Gwaine. It was...this place and the law...and Uther...and fear..."
"I understand," Gwaine sighed.
"I have to do whatever I can to protect my son," Merlin pleaded. "When Uther was alive I feared he would have had William executed."
Gwaine looked disgusted, and then frowned.
"I named him after my best childhood friend who died defending our village."
"Merlin, I had no idea such fears haunted you, mate," he added, almost miserably.
Merlin wiped tears away with his shirt.
"Gwaine, I'm sorry...for jumping on you like that...it's just..."
"You were being a father, I understand."
"But it's more than that. When Freya died...I felt like I had failed to protect her. I promised her I would, and she died giving childbirth. My last words to her was promising her that I would protect her child. She begged me to as she laid there dying.."
With that Merlin's body shook with sobs and he was unable to continue as the load of grief and stress crushed him.
Gwaine, not being used to dealing with emotions, grabbed Merlin into a hug.
And finally, for the first time since Freya's death, Merlin was able to let it all go.
Finally, he was able to breathe.
I hope Gwaine was in character!